Activists have called for the immediate release of Narges Mohammadi, the jailed deputy director and spokesperson for the Center for the Defenders of Human Rights.
Gathering outside Mohammadi’s house on May 20, protesters celebrated Mohammadi's commitment to human rights, and insisted that her continued imprisonment not only violated human rights but also went against Islamic and family values.
Security forces arrested Mohammadi on May 5.
Supporters of the Women Citizenship Center (WCC) and other groups, including anti-death penalty campaign group Karzar Legam, attended the rally, along with journalist and filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad and Gohar Eshghi, the mother of Sattar Beheshti, the blogger who died while in jail in 2013. Eshghi and Nourizad were both present at the time of Mohammadi’s arrest.
Eshghi described what happened: “Suddenly, there was this knock at the apartment. We looked through the peephole and saw the security officers. They kept repeating, ‘if you don’t open the door, we will break it down. We have an official order to enter.’ Feeling overwhelmed, I fell on the chair. Finally, we opened the door and they aggressively arrested Narges.”
“I am addressing all those who have been so cruel to us. Narges is like my daughter and if anything happens to her I will kill myself. Narges has been my friend and supporter since Sattar’s death. So I am telling you: if anything happens to her while in prison, I will set the world on fire.”
Eshghi is currently in hospital.
Another speaker, former MP Faezeh Hashemi — daughter of influential politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani — said she came to know about Mohammadi’s work when she was in prison in 2011.
“We got closer recently when she actively criticized and rejected the concept of solitary confinement. She is truly concerned about civil rights and society. As far as I understand, her activities lie within the framework of existing laws and she is simply fighting against the violation of human rights. Nobody can oppose such humanistic activities.”
Mohammadi's work at the Center for the Defenders of Human Rights, which was founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi in 2001, has made her one of Iran's most prominent human rights activists. The center offers pro-bono legal services to political prisoners and offers support to their families.
”Why is the Islamic Republic concerned about Yemeni children, but not about Narges’ children, whose mother is in prison?” asked Zahra Rahimi, whose husband Abolfazel Qadyani is currently serving time as a political prisoner.
Another activist, former prisoner Parisa Azadi, called on the crowd to support Atena Farghadani, the artist and activist jailed on May 18. She said Iranian society must raise awareness of the fate of political prisoners. “We should try hard not to allow anybody be arrested in anonymity and remain anonymous.”
“Despite all our worries about Narges’ arrest, there is still this hope that no matter how much these arrests continue, the new generation of women sharing Narges’s thoughts and ideals is growing,” said lawyer and WCC activist Shima Qousheh. “So now the question to put to authorities is: “What do you want to do with the new generation?”
Activist Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani told protesters that Mohammadi was committed to protecting the rights of all Iranians. Describing Mohammadi as a “pure human rights activist,” Khorasani said that Mohammadi “did not separate Sunnis, Kurds and Baluch people, caring equally for all political prisoners.”
Others described her as a “mother for all the children of our country.” Nooshin Ahmadi called for protesters to “rise in her honour and demand her release.”
Shahnaz Karim Beygi, a relative of Mostafa Karmi Beygi, who was killed during the Green Movement in 2009, was also at the demonstration. “All these years, when we have been suffering from the loss of our loved ones, Narges kept us company and consoled us. It is this love and commitment towards her compatriots that has put her in prison.”
Legal practitioner Ameneh Rezaee said that Mohammadi inspired hope and was a champion of peace, “discourse, cooperation and sharing.” Others, including Mahdieh Golru, credited Mohammadi with changing the landscape of protest and activism, especially for women. “We all know that until two decades ago, a woman activist meant the daughter or wife of a politician. Now, a woman political activist is active and independent. I believe that our joint efforts will one day produce more fruit, leading to better conditions for all Iranian women.”
Pointing to Mohammadi’s outstanding bravery, Golru said, “She could very well be now living abroad with her husband, but instead she decided to stay in her own country. She made an honorable decision and should be respected for that.”
Mansoureh Khosroshahi, a campaigner from the group Mothers Of Peace appealed to officials: “I would like to tell Mr. Zarif that prisoners like Narges Mohammadi are not guerillas, nor have they attempted to bring about an armed uprising; nor have they killed anybody. They have simply criticized the existing status quo and protested against it. People like Narges raise their voice louder. Mr. Zarif should explain why they are in prison. Imprisoning a mother with two small children is both immoral and inhuman. It is religiously wrong as well. That’s why we demand the authorities to release her as soon as possible.”
Teachers’ Trade Union member Masoumeh Dehqan agreed that Mohammadi’s continued detention was wrong on religious grounds. “I remember all those other mothers who are currently in prison, accused of religious, political and security charges. I absolutely feel ashamed to say that a Muslim, a mother who has brought up her children in hardship has been torn away from her children and is put in prison. How the hell can this be justified?”
Read the original article in Persian